5 million people were out protesting on the streets, raising their voices against oppression. Ideally, these words would seem to be an introduction to the historical marches that have happened in our past, but they are not. These are not words recalling a memory from the past. These are words describing the Women’s March on Washington, 2017.
1963 was the last time that such a large group of people had ever marched for their rights in Washington – for jobs and freedom – back when Martin Luther King Jr. had made his epic speech. When I think about marching for rights, only two events come to mind. The march for freedom here in India – for freedom from British rule – and the one in America that spoke up against slavery. Both created history. Both were led by leaders who were loved and revered. Both presented a threat to the ruling government, owing to their sheer strength in numbers.
But something entirely different happened last week. It was the first time since America’s march against the Vietnam War that such a large group of people, women mostly, marched against the government – and this was a leaderless march. The main protagonist of it was none other than the rights that these women were fighting for. And that is why the Women’s March on Washington has created history.
In one of the largest protests to occur in US’ history, millions took to the streets on Saturday the 21st, one day after the inauguration of Donald Trump. According to crowd-scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University in Britain, the crowd was roughly three times the size of the audience present at President Trump’s inauguration the day earlier. Women-led marches took place in over 600 locations spread across seven continents, including Antarctica. In the US, in addition to Washington, massive protests took place in Boston; Chicago; Denver; Los Angeles; Madison, Wisconsin; New York; Oakland; Portland, Oregon; St. Paul; San Francisco and Seattle. According to one count, as many as 4.6 million people took part in the global day of action.
On the very first day of his Presidency, even before his inauguration speech was over, Trump’s staff made alarming changes to the Whitehouse website. Gone from it were all traces of civil rights, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and climate and environmental policies which were deemed as ‘harmful and unnecessary’.
Women gathered to rally against threats made by President Donald Trump and the Congressional Republicans to pull down the Affordable Care Act; to overturn the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade on abortion; to dilute the social safety net until it no longer serves as a safeguard; to harass and target immigrants, women, LGBT Americans and people of color. They were there to voice and protect an array of rights that they believe Trump threatens, which they have only recently secured. And threatening all of these, was a blow to their personal welfare.
There were men, women, and children present, all of whom had one goal in mind, that women’s rights are human rights. And despite the march’s name, it was a march for rights and equality. Mothers marched with daughters and granddaughters; whole families, including husbands and sons, marched arm in arm.
There were celebrities, actors, poets, singers, directors coming out on to the streets, hand in hand, to protest the violent harassment of their rights.
There were women who lived through the Civil Rights movement, who came of age in an era when abortion was criminalized, who have vivid memories of a time when gay men and women were regularly victimized –who gathered to say, ‘We are not going back.’
For a country which, by the constitution, stands for freedom, this march was one of the biggest demonstrations of how far this democracy has come. It was an outrage generated by people who are aware, people who want their place in a democracy, people who understand their rights and liberties, and people who have seen oppression and aggression and have come out strong. This march was a statement, ‘We have come too far to be going back now.’
“This is an outpouring of energy and true democracy like I have never seen in my very long life,” said Gloria Steinem at the Women’s March in Washington. “We are mothers. We are caregivers. We are artists. We are activists. We are entrepreneurs, doctors, leaders of industry and technology. Our potential is unlimited. We rise!”
The women’s march stood for everything this generation has seen and stood for, everything the previous generations of Americans have fought for. It showed humor and kindness, courage and camaraderie. There was wit, intelligence and humor, presented through sometimes goofy, sometimes pointed, means, but rooted in satire rather than spite. The march showed compassion and empathy, and most of all, it showed people coming together, regardless of caste, colour, nationality or religion. Agree or disagree with the reasons behind the march, this kind of solidarity is an incredible thing to behold.
It almost makes me reminisce about a time when India was a country bound by one single desire for freedom and makes me wonder if we as a country could ever achieve such kind of solidarity again.
Image of Cover Graphic from : thestar.com
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